Starting Over With A Clean Sheet Of Paper

Posted in IndyCar on December 14, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Now that NBC has the full IndyCar slate as well as half of the NASCAR schedule, they held a motorsports summit in New York a couple of weeks ago. In attendance was Doug Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Boles related parts of his visit with NBC execs to Trackside, pertaining to how they will cover next year’s Indianapolis 500 – the first time any other network other than ABC will broadcast the iconic race.

I liked everything I heard Boles say about NBC’s approach. First of all, there will be additional early morning pre-race coverage on NBCSN before they switch over to “big” NBC, presumably an hour before the start of the race. I don’t recall hearing that there would be any extra post-race coverage on NBCSN, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

What I liked most of all is that NBC wants to take the approach that those at home should get to see the same part of the traditional pre-race ceremonies that those of us in the stands see.

Remember back in the nineties? ABC would go commercial-free for about twenty minutes from the start of the traditional ceremonies until well beyond the command to start engines and the start of the race. Somewhere along the way, ABC started telling IMS what they needed to do to fit certain parts of the traditional ceremonies around their commercial breaks. It became a very disjointed race morning with long breaks in between certain segments of the ceremony, while some parts of the traditions were never seen by those at home.

Different parts of the pre-race ceremonies were shifted around to accommodate the commercial schedule. It seemed that every year, the breaks and pauses would go longer and were more awkward. Then when I would go home and watch the replay, I would find out that certain memorable parts took place during a Verizon commercial and were never even seen by viewers at home.

Boles was not President of IMS back then, so he is not to blame for ABC being allowed to rearrange something that we traditionalists value deeply. By the time he came on board in 2013, the precedent had long been in place. Once something like this is allowed, it’s almost impossible to undo it.

But it sounds like NBC has volunteered to undo it. My take on the conversation with Boles on Trackside is that NBC is going to give Boles a clean sheet of paper in order to rearrange the traditional pre-race ceremonies the way he wants and to make sure that the viewers at home get to take it all in.

Doug Boles understands the importance of those ceremonies to longtime fans. Any variance is upsetting to us, and yes – I put myself in that category. Credit him with getting Jim Cornelison for a third year in a row to deliver his booming rendition of (Back Home Again in) Indiana. He also brought back the ever-popular Memorial Day homage that was a staple in the pre-race ceremonies for decades until Jim Philippi passed away in 2004.

Doug Boles has been attending the Indianapolis 500 as a fan since 1977. In that span, he has gotten a sense of what he and other fans like as far as Indianapolis 500 traditions. Not every tradition is great. This will ruffle feathers, but I was never a fan of Florence Henderson’s rendition of God Bless America. It was never one of my favorite songs and she was certainly not my favorite performer. I’m also probably in the minority in saying that I would like to see Driver Introductions go away. In the current format, I think it comes across as awkward, cheesy and over-the-top. Boles can take this as his opportunity to gauge what fans want. I fully trust him when it comes to doing what’s best with this clean sheet of paper.

I was also glad to see that Boles incorporated the Purdue All-American Marching Band back into pre-race prominence. They had already been phased out of performing the National Anthem and Taps. Once Jim Nabors retired after the 2014 race, they were no longer used for (Back Home Again in) Indiana when Straight-No Chaser and Josh Kaufman performed. Jim Cornelison seems to embrace their backing him up.

Personally, so long as the core elements that we’ve come to expect every year are there – I don’t care what is added or taken away, nor do I worry about what order they go in. What I do care about is for there to be a seamless pre-race ceremony without the disjointed breaks for commercials. I also want viewers at home to be able to experience every bit of it. After all, some year I might be a stay-at-home viewer. It would be against my will, but it could happen.

NBC will know this is coming. They can plan their telecast and their ad schedule around a long commercial-free window that encompasses the pre-race ceremonies, the command to start engines and the first few opening laps before cutting away to a commercial.

I know NBC is ultimately in this to make money. That’s why they exist. But they can also be an effective partner by trying to grow the sport and taking a long-term approach with their broadcast presentation. If the viewers become entranced with the Indianapolis 500 telecast, perhaps they’ll want to tune in the next weekend and the next.

I don’t mean to kick ABC while they are already down. That’s low-hanging fruit, and there’s no point in it – we got what we wanted. But it’s refreshing to hear that we finally have a TV broadcast partner that asks for input on what the series and The Speedway wants, rather than being told how it’s going to be.

This is only a three-year contract between IndyCar and NBC. But if they continue to be the partner they appear to be at the start of this deal, I think we can expect to see peacock logos around IMS in May for the next several years.

George Phillips

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A Painful, Yet Heartfelt Message

Posted in IndyCar on December 12, 2018 by Oilpressure

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The date was Sunday, August 19, 2018. The site was Pocono Raceway for the IndyCar ABC Supply 500; one of only two 500-mile races on the IndyCar schedule. The first five laps had been run under caution due to contact between the cars of Graham Rahal and Spencer Pigot just as the green flag fell. Both cars would eventually re-enter the race with damage, but who really remembers that?

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The Way Things Ought To Be

Posted in IndyCar on December 10, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Last week, we got written confirmation on what we had all heard about two weeks ago. That is, that Harding Steinbrenner Racing will run Honda engines in 2019. This is a significant development for a lot of reasons, but most importantly – it eliminates the whole mess of their involvement with Andretti Autosport and two different engine manufacturers.

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A Well Kept Secret

Posted in IndyCar on December 7, 2018 by Oilpressure

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By Susan Phillips

My husband, who normally occupies this space, asked me to have something ready for today because he had very little time to write while he was in Denver and he anticipated being too tired to write anything after he got back after midnight on Wednesday. Plus the Titans are currently playing as I’m quietly writing this on my laptop while he stares intently at the game. The way this season has gone, I’d rather be focusing on this than listening to his expletives.

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Remembering The Grand Prix Of Denver

Posted in IndyCar on December 5, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Greetings from a warm and comfortable hotel room in a very cold Denver, Colorado. I don’t travel much at all with my job. This is only my fourth work-related trip in the past three years. I’ve been to Atlanta, Denver, Louisville and now back to Denver – and that’s it. But I’ve already been told to expect a trip to Washington, D.C. in mid-January. Why can’t they send me to Miami or Phoenix in these winter months?

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Should A Title Sponsor Be A Household Name?

Posted in IndyCar on December 3, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Last week, Adam Stern was a guest on Trackside. If you don’t know who Adam Stern is, he is the Motorsports Reporter with the SportsBusiness Journal. He is the go-to person for the latest on any business dealings within the motorsports realm. If you are on Twitter and such things interest you as much as they do me, he is a good follow at @A_S12.

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Out With The Old And In With The New

Posted in IndyCar on November 30, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Next season looks like a definite year of change. For someone like me that thinks change is bad, that can be a scary thing. Not only is there a new single broadcast partner in NBC that will be covering the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, there will be other changes.

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